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Presentation 52. Jacob had withheld wholehearted obedience from God and had begun to pay the consequences - at home a breakdown of parental authority.

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Presentation on theme: "Presentation 52. Jacob had withheld wholehearted obedience from God and had begun to pay the consequences - at home a breakdown of parental authority."— Presentation transcript:

1 Presentation 52


3 Jacob had withheld wholehearted obedience from God and had begun to pay the consequences - at home a breakdown of parental authority. Jacobs sons had lost respect for him, and had without consultation slaughtered the inhabitants of Shechem. This had made them odious to the surrounding nations. It seemed only a matter of time before their neighbours banded together to wipe out Jacobs household. Into this situation God spoke and recalled Jacob to Bethel to fulfil the vow he had made years earlier. It was a call to repentance and faith and to a new obedience to God. Jacob knew there was nowhere else to go. God had hemmed him into himself. Introduction Presentation 52

4 One of the immediate things that characterised Jacob's life at this time was a remembrance of the past blessings of God. We sometimes sing, O God our help in ages past our hope for years to come' and by doing so we are encouraging our hearts to believe that the God, who has proved himself faithful to us down through the years will continue to be faithful. We trust that the God, who has come to us in our distress, been with us in the dark and come running to meet us with open arms, when we have returned from our backsliding, will continue to be the God with whom we can confidently face the future. Past Blessings Remembered Presentation 52

5 God had called Jacob back to Bethel the place he had first encountered God some thirty years previously. His vision of the ladder had taught him that God would be near to bless him. That encounter had produced a vow, which committed Jacob to God. And while the composition of the vow may have revealed a theological naiveté, it was the sincerity of Jacobs heart that God responded to. And on the strength of God's promise to bless him, Jacob had endured his exile years. These memories would have been vivid as Jacob journeyed back to Bethel. cf v3 … Past Blessings Remembered Presentation 52

6 Are you also aware of God's blessing as you look back over your life? Do you spend time mulling over God's goodness? In the lines of the hymn do you Count your blessings and name them one by one so that you are surprised by what God has done? This is an important spiritual exercise. Some like Jacob may say, 'When I first committed my life to God my understanding of God and of the gospel was very limited. But God has been faithful and blessed down the years. I can see how he has been able to bring good even out of my sin and disobedience... Past Blessings Remembered Presentation 52

7 This ability to reflect upon God's past blessings contains the secret for growing old gracefully. When you meet elderly people some are vinegary, prickly, complaining, individuals while others are quite delightful people. The thing that makes the difference is their relationship to God. Some have hearts filled with bitterness, lives filled with regrets and what they consider to be lost opportunities. I used to visit an elderly gentleman and it was possible to predict precisely what he would say. He always spoke of wasted opportunities and all that he might have Been, if it hadn't been for his family, his school, the war, the government... Past Blessings Remembered Presentation 52

8 There are others, who are free from the slights and injuries that others have caused them. They are predominantly occupied with God and his goodness. They think of how God has blessed their family, answered their prayers and shown himself to be gracious. They recount the sore experiences in their lives but revel in the way in which God has used those experiences to enrich them. What a completely different approach to the past! When we are old, will we be crotchety, complaining, disgruntled individuals,whom others will find it hard to visit, or will we so live in the consciousness of Gods grace and blessing that others will enjoy our company? Our attitude to God's past blessing shapes our lives. Past Blessings Remembered Presentation 52

9 Jacob's return to Bethel illustrates an important spiritual principle. He had got himself into a spiritual mess and was now returning to the place of his original commitment to God. He realised he needed to backtrack. A mother was knitting a jumper for her youngest child. The pattern was complicated. A mistake was made, which was not immediately apparent. When it was discovered there was only one thing to do. In order to follow the designers pattern the work had to be ripped out to back to the point of the mistake. Jacob's return to Bethel involved some ripping out. He confessed his failures and sought to put wrong things right in order to restore his fellowship with God. Past Blessings Remembered Presentation 52

10 This helps explain Jacob's concern for the renewed commitment and purification of himself and his family in v2-3. Are you surprised that there were still idols in Jacob's household? Rachel had stolen them, when they fled from her fathers home. If they were removed to prevent Laban from using them for divination, why are they still in her possession? Jacob's action suggests these idols were being used by some of his family. Had Jacob weakly tolerated their use? Had the time they spent living cheek by jowl with the inhabitants of Shechem stimulated this interest in idolatry'? Was it a case of following the worship pattern of everyone else in town? Purification and Commitment Presentation 52

11 Jacob, the restored penitent, now exercises a new authority in his home. He requires these harmful idols to be removed. There is not a murmur of complaint from his family. Did they recognise the authority of God in this command? If a parents spiritual backsliding can result in the erosion of their authority, then their revived spiritual state encourages their family to take them seriously again. The response of Jacob's household was more than token obedience they gave Jacob all the foreign gods and the rings in their ears v4. In that age earrings seem to have been associated with idolatry. They also took part in a ceremonial washing and put on fresh clothes. These actions symbolise an inner spiritual cleansing, having first repented of and discarded their sinful practices. Purification and Commitment Presentation 52

12 We must not underestimate the significance of these symbols. They were saying in the most meaningful way, we want to break with our sinful past. Their willingness to do so indicates that they were not going through some empty ritual, which would not impact upon their day to day behaviour. They are anxious to have their heart relationship with God repaired. It is the heart attitude, lying behind the symbol, which God recognises and honours! Just as God had protected Jacob and his household from the rage of Laban and the anger of Esau so now he protects them from the vengeance of the surrounding population cf v5... Purification and Commitment Presentation 52

13 God always responds to repentance and faith. Jacob's household had time to reflect upon the folly of their past. God had not only hemmed Jacob into himself but his family also. When men and women find themselves at rock bottom it is then that they are prepared to recognise the sinfulness of their sins, and are more likely to give them up. Today, God continues to say, 'Get rid of your foreign gods, get rid of those things which prevent you from enjoying fellowship with me and which have turned off the tap of my blessing. Do you need to wait until you hit rock bottom before relinquishing those things which are damaging your communion with God? Purification and Commitment Presentation 52

14 Upon arrival at their destination one further clue is given concerning Jacobs spiritual recovery. He describes Bethel as El Bethel v7. In Gen after his dream of the ladder stretching up to heaven, he was impressed by the location of his blessing. He said, surely the Lord is in this place.. How awesome is this place. He thought of Bethel as a holy site. However, by the time we reach Gen. 35 the spiritual focus of Jacob has shifted. He is now not preoccupied with the place of the blessing but with the God who blesses. El Bethel means, The God of the house of God. Purification and Commitment Presentation 52

15 Young Christians can so easily be taken up with places and experiences. But as we get older and if spiritual maturity accompanies advancing years, we are less taken up with these things. The important thing in our life is not the place we were converted or the church, where we were baptised but that we are growing in our knowledge of the living God. A God who continues to reveal himself and who has proved faithful and gracious down the years. Wonderful past experiences are no substitute for a conscious daily walk with God. The thing We should rejoice in more than anything else is Purification and Commitment Presentation 52

16 In Ps 43 the Psalmist is conscious that God seemed far away. He asks to be led to God's holy hill on which God's house was built. Upon his arrival he intended to go to God's altar, not for its own sake but as a means of drawing near to 'God his exceeding joy'. When we are spiritually healthy, the prospect of coming to worship is a delight. We do not come out of duty, or because our family drags us along. We do not come to meet our friends, or because we like the atmosphere but in order to approach 'God our exceeding joy and enjoy fellowship with him. Purification and Commitment Presentation 52

17 Jacob received a fresh revelation v9-13. This is God's response to Jacob's renewed commitment. The last revelation of its kind in Genesis. The age of the patriarchs is closing. When we respond to God in repentance and faith, he will encourage each fresh step of commitment. We are nearer to God, in the sense that we have a greater awareness of our fellowship with him. If our sin and disobedience causes God to appear to be 'afar off then a fresh commitment will heightens our sense of fellowship with him. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in darkness, we lie and do not live the truth. But if we walk in the light as he is in the light we have fellowship with one another and the Blood of Jesus his Son purifies us from all sin. 1 John A Fresh Revelation Presentation 52

18 Look at the substance of God's revelation. God confirms the new name given Jacob at Peniel in v10. There is also the promise of fruitfulness. But Jacob is now old and his family is complete. How do we understand this promise? In terms of his descendants, who would eventually become the nation of Israel. Despite Jacobs spiritually chequered career his was a significant role in the purposes of God. A nation would come into being, who would identify themselves as followers of the God of Abraham and of Isaac and Jacob. Jacob's God is our God. A God who bears patiently with our stubborn wilful hearts and hems us in to himself. This God comes to us, when as a result of our disobedience our world seems to failing apart and he offers us again and again, the grace of a new beginning. A Fresh Revelation Presentation 52

19 The closing verses deal with three deaths, that of Deborah who had been a faithful servant in the household for many years. Then there is the death of Rachel as she gave birth to Benjamin her second son and finally the death of Isaac, Jacob's father. All these precious bonds with the past are cut one after another. One cannot help but think that it is the kindness and mercy of God that ensured that Jacob was for the first time in his life truly secure in God's love and settled concerning the future, before these bonds were severed. Letting Go of the Past Presentation 52

20 We further see the kindness of God towards Isaac, who for years must have been worried about Jacob and Gods purposes. Is it fanciful to suggest that during all the years Jacob was away from home there was a father who was praying for his boy? Now at long last, Jacob was settled into the blessing of God, who had dealt faithfully and graciously with him. Those of us who are parents should be encouraged to pray for our children. We need to learn to hold onto God for them, when their hearts seem cool towards God and they appear to have made a mess of their spiritual lives. We may not always see them come to a place of fruitfulness before we die but the story of Jacob encourages believing parents to hold onto God for their children. Letting Go of the Past Presentation 52

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